Memorial Stones in the Jordan River


What is it about your religion, your faith that you would say is evidence to those that enquire – why is it real? 


What makes it real to me is the bible itself. 2000 years old for the newest writings – most averaging twice that age – has something new every time I read it.  And the discoveries I make excite me as if they were new revelations of truth.  The second reality is the mystery of the preached word – and the ability it has to change people when they hear it.  Please understand I’m not talking about gospel regeneration or the new birth coming by preaching.


I’m talking about taking the things you hear from preaching and applying them to your life and seeing change and impact and difference and rediscovering the joy of your salvation and finding Jesus revealed in your life in a manifest way.  That’s why we go to services, and that’s why we keep returning to the place week after week and month after month and year after year.


There are special places used more than once in scripture.  The upper room – for example, we find used for the last supper and the gathering at Pentecost.  Mt. Moriah, where Isaac was laid, in tradition is the same place as the threshing floor David purchased, is the site of temple mount and perhaps Jacob’s ladder.  Some historians now want to locate the Garden of Eden over the same region of Jerusalem.  They make a very strong case.


Jacob returned to the place where he had felt the presence of God.  And John the Baptist immersed followers at a place where he knew the glory of God had been.   


Jhn 10:40  And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.


Jesus walked nearly sixty miles in order to be baptized of John at this particular place.  And it’s a place that was marked by 12 stones.


In the book of Joshua, it’s time for the children of Israel to end their wandering and pass over Jordan.  The Lord gives instructions to Joshua that the priests are to carry the ark of the covenant to the edge of the water and when they reach the brink – the water will part and the ark will stand still in the Jordan and the children of Israel – about a thousand feet away will pass through the Jordan dry – in the same manner as their fathers passed through the Red Sea and were baptized unto Moses.



The scriptures describe as the priests stepped into the Jordan river:

Jos 3:15  And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,)

Jos 3:16 That the waters which came down from above stood [and] rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that [is] beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, [even] the salt sea, failed, [and] were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho.




Inspiration declares the waters of the Jordan rolled back all the way to the cities of Adam.  We Old Baptists have our friendly debates and pet subjects, where we pick sides of a position and try to prove it biblically.  Was Judas a child of God?  Was Paul born again on the road to Damascus or just converted?  What was Paul’s thorn in the side?  Was Adam a child of God?  Was it Christ that met Abraham as Melchizedek or a man?


In the past, I’ve called upon this verse to support my position about Adam being born of the Spirit after the fall.  I believe he was, but there are many who contend he’s not and say we won’t see him in eternity.  I no longer need this verse to support my point.  I think I have a better proof which will reveal hereafter.


While the Jordan is parted, the Lord instructs Joshua to have a representative from each tribe take a stone from the Jordan so a pillar – a memorial can be made. Joshua sets these stones up in Gigal:


Jos 4:20  And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.


And there’s also an account where Joshua takes twelve stones to build a pillar. 


Jos 4:9 And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.


If you type in the phrase bible contradictions into a search engine on the internet, this story in Joshua comes up near the top.  Did they take the stones to Gilgal or did they build a memorial near the Jordan? 




They did both.  I said at the beginning that reading scripture and discovering new things is what makes it real to me.  I can read the same text dozens of times and never see something, then one day, a light comes on and illumination follows and there’s something that’s always been there that is suddenly new and exciting.  If it’s never happened to you, then you aren’t reading the book enough. So called contradictions are usually a failure to rightly divide the word of truth. 


Joshua gathered twelve stones from near the ark.  The others could not do that.  They were instructed to stay about 1000 feet away.  So in truth, we are dealing with 24 stones and two separate memorials.  One by the edge of the Jordan, and one where they pitched in Gigal.


Joshua, like the priests, could approach the ark because he had the spirit.


Num 27:18 And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom [is] the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;


Deu 34:9  And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses.


These twelve stones at the edge of the Jordan River were still standing when John the Baptist, by divine direction began baptizing there.  This was a trade route on the road to Jerusalem, well traveled, and well known by the Jews.  You couldn’t look at those stones and not be reminded of the miraculous crossing of Jordan by Joshua.


THE PRIEST – History, Office, Tradition, Ceremony


John the Baptist was a priest.  John was of the priestly line of Aaron as well as being a child of special promise of God; the one who would prepare the way for Messiah after the manner of Elijah.   Had the priesthood of the day not been ruined, it’s thought that John would have been the legitimate High Priest at the time when he commenced his wilderness ministry.  The priesthood had become corrupt and had been bought by men with wealth and influence.


We know John’s father was a priest and we find evidence of him ministering in Luke Chapter 1. 


There is no way to be promoted into the priesthood. The Jewish priesthood was to be passed down from father to son as long as it existed.


Exd 29:9 And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: and the priest's office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute: and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons.


The priesthood was a protected office.  It’s been said that if the mother had been taken in captivity and returned, her records needed great examination.  A son born in captivity would have been ineligible to serve.  But by the time John the Baptist appeared on the scene, the office no longer resembled what God had established through Moses.  Only one high priest each year, yet through the corruption of bribes and sin, by John’s day, there was one family dominating, and from scriptural account, more than one high priest:


Luk 3:2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.


When a high priest was to be initiated, the Jews conducted a ceremony. First, a mitzvah (an immersion of the subject), followed by an anointing with oil, and then the father priest would confirm the son’s right and lineage by publicly proclaiming “This is my son.”


And now, by special providence of God, John the Baptist is the last high priest of the Old Testament.  He came in the spirit and power of Elijah to make ready a people prepared of the Lord.  John was baptizing at this same crossing and when the multitude came to him – he called them a generation of vipers. 


Why, Brother John, that’s not how you increase membership and fill a church!


Luk 3:7  Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Luk 3:8   Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to [our] father: for I say unto you, That God is able of SOME stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 


SOME Stones?  No, THESE Stones.


I wonder what stones John was pointing at?


Tradition says Jesus walked sixty miles to be baptized of John.  From Galilee to the Jordan river, to a place six or seven miles north of the Dead Sea, where Joshua and the Israelites passed over Jordan.


And after John declares to the crowd one is coming called the Lamb of God – he looks up and here comes Joshua. 


It should come as no surprise to teachers or historians that there is no J in the Hebrew language.  And there wasn’t one in our English alphabet until about 1634.  Even then the letter didn’t find common usage until the 17th century. So we have the Jewish name Yeshua pushed through Greek to become Joshua and then finally English to get Jesus. 


Jesus submitted to immersion by John, in spite of John's reservations, "to fulfill all righteousness". ( Matt 3:15)  


Why was Jesus baptized?  We sometimes refer to baptism as the entryway into the church on earth.  As Jesus submitted to the watery grave, so too should we follow His example.


Mat 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer [it to be so] now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.


Pay close attention to the verse in Matthew.  Notice Jesus didn’t say “suffer it to be so for it becometh me to fulfill all righteousness” – he said us.  John has a part in this.


Jhn 1:31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.


John was not immersing Jesus for repentance for sin. Indeed, the sinless lamb would never need repentance.  John was, as God’s legitimate high priest, initiating Jesus, who he had identified as "the Lamb of God" into the priesthood.   Not into the Levitical priesthood from the Aaronic line, for Jesus’ lineage ran through Judah – not Levi.  Here is one superior to that priesthood.


In Joshua, the waters of Jordan rolled back in two directions.  When the Saviour was laid beneath the waves of the same Jordan, we see in type redemption flowed from before the foundation of the world unto the sea of forgetfulness.  John the Baptist, acting as the last high priest under the law, passes in type all the sins of the people under the Old Covenant unto the only one who could actually take them away.  Legally, Jesus would carry these Old Testament sins with him to the Cross and put them away there. 


And Jesus rose, being ordained of God, as a high priest forever, beginning His three and one half year priestly ministry.


Luk 3:22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

 Luk 3:23    And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was [the son] of Heli,

Luk 3:24     Which was [the son] of Matthat, which was [the son] of Levi, which was [the son] of Melchi, which was [the son] of Janna, which was [the son] of Joseph,


This event has been rehearsed for ages by priests passing the office to their son, all pointing us to this one:  Jesus, at the age of thirty is immersed by a true high priest, receives the Father’s confirmation, and is anointed with the Oil of the Holy Spirit.


Doctor Luke picked an odd place to tell us about the family tree of Jesus – or so it would seem.  Christ has just come up out of the water and Luke starts talking about heritage. But as Priests of the Old Testament had to prove descent from Aaron, Luke knows this positioning of his text is important.  Watch this path carefully:  It purposely misses Aaron and Moses – yet goes back through David, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Shem, Seth and Adam.


Shem – son of Noah, is who the Jews traditionally say met Abraham, whom he called Melchizedek. 


Perhaps it will help our understanding if we look at Melchizedek as a designation, not a name.  Just like Elder, President, and Pastor – they are all position titles.


The Melchizedek priesthood preceded the law and was superior to it.  The sacrificial law was necessary to be our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.  Therefore, the Melchizedek priesthood was held in abeyance when the law was ushered in until perfection could be revealed.


In the Old Testament the priests could not be kings and the kings could not be priests. However, Jesus came as a King and he also came as a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.  Now Jesus has made those whom he has cleansed from sin, both kings and priests. 


Now consider this brilliant defense that has confounded scholars for centuries:  Paul sums up in one sentence the superiority of this priesthood:


Hbr 7:3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.


The old priesthood confirmation of pedigree was burdensome.  The tracking of the father and his lineage – can he be traced back to Aaron?  The mother’s pedigree – was she ever in captivity?  When did the grandfather and the father die?  Was that a divorce or remarriage in the family?  Was a widow taken in by her husband’s brother to bring up issue involved that could have marred the lines?  When and where were they born?  At what year did they enter the priesthood?  And when did their priesthood end?  Was the child born outside Israel?  Is there an older brother who would be in line? 


Maybe as a sign this was all ending, one of the most celebrated figures of the Bible, John the Baptist, has no lineage detailed.  You can find his father and his mother, but you can’t glean much more than that.


In essence Paul is saying in Hebrews 7, you don’t have to track this priest and his parentage and his lineage and his breeding or when he was born or when he dies like you would an earthly priest. 


Jhn 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, [but] grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.


Adam was a high priest in a sense that he was charged with the keeping of the righteousness of the garden.  Because the linage goes back to Adam, it marks the Lamb of God not only as representing all of the elect as the Son of Man, but also ties Adam to the unchangeable priesthood. In my mind, this linage says Adam was born again and we’ll see him in eternity.  


The transfer of authority and the ceremony is complete.  John as the last legitimate high priest of the Old Testament has in type transferred the sins of the people onto the Messiah, (our eternal High Priest ending the Aaronic and Levitical priesthood)  confirming the True, heavenly priesthood after the order of Melchizedek.  This priesthood not bound by the law of sacrifice, nor tied to the blood or bulls and goats, but is a priesthood pure, free of sin, perfect in obedience and righteousness, both pre-dating and overshadowing the weak priesthood of man.


The high priest was a picture of a sin bearer for the people – and Jesus comes out of the water having in picture the sins of the Old Testament laid on him, and heads into the wilderness – showing us like the scapegoat of old how our sins will never come back.   He’s going to be tempted after 40 days, one day for each year Israel wandered in the wilderness – and he is going to be tempted with food – just like Adam. 


You remember the temptations.  Satan telling Jesus to command some stones that they be made bread?   NO!  Command THESE stones be made bread.  What stones? The stones of the memorial set up by Joshua.  (Because Jesus is in Gilgal – where He knows the Lord has been.)  Command these stones – surely they mean something to your God.


Not yielding to any of Satan’s temptations, Jesus is victorious in the task of the great high priest and now tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).


The New Testament priesthood is called a "holy" and a "royal" priesthood.  "Royalty" generally refers to kings.  Thus the priests are also the kings.


1Pe 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:


When do you become a king and a priest unto God?


Rev 1:6  And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him [be] glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.


Think about this for a minute.  Not everyone that is born from above and given the new birth is called into service.  Some may never darken the doors of a church or praise God in an orderly assembly.  They are children of God, but they are not kings and priests unto God.  When do you become a king and priest to God?  When you are submerged beneath that watery grave and arise to walk in newness and life.  What kind of priest are you made?  Not an Old Testament priest, but a priest after the order or Melchisedec, with Jesus being our High Priest.


Jesus is a King through the lineage of King David.


2Ti 2:8  Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: 


Jesus is High Priest through the descending of the Spirit.


Hbr 5:6 As he saith also in another [place], Thou [art] a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Hbr 5:7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;

Hbr 5:8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

Hbr 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Hbr 5:10  Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.


We began with a look at the stones Joshua used to make memorials.  It seems fitting to end with stones.  Peter understood something about the holy priesthood.


1Pe 2:4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,


1Pe 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.


1Pe 2:6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.


1Pe 2:7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,


 1Pe 2:8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.


1Pe 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:


Brother Royce Ellis